As SEO Recap 2021 approaches, we sit down with Murray Newlands, CMO of CRS Credit, to discuss the topic of his presentation – Creating great stories for generating organic links.
Murray led B2B marketing for SaaS/B2C organizations for over 20 years.
He earned many accolades along the way: “50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch” (Entrepreneur); “21 Thought Leaders Every Entrepreneur Should Follow” (Inc.) and “The Top 10 People to Know in Silicon Valley (Huffington Post). As a contributing writer for publications like Forbes and Entrepreneur, and as host of “How to CEO” podcast, Murray shares information and ideas with C-level leaders.
1. As a CMO, what is your experience with SEO? How are you involved?
As CMO of CRS Credit, we drive many leads with the help of SEO. My target is both number of leads and quality, which I am benchmarked against. I need to know what is happening with the SEO strategy overall, what are the trends. I try to leave the tactical details of individual articles or elements up to the team, but I am interested in knowing exactly where we are up to at all times, the targets. Plus, where we want to take traffic and leads moving forward next year.
2. The topic of your presentation at SEO Recap 2021 is creating great stories for generating organic links. Why have you chosen this topic?
When people think about creating content for SEO, they think about researching the title and then purely writing about the title. I understand why it makes sense. But if you want to write for large audiences and obtain links from publications, it’s necessary to build and grow and communicate more effectively. It’s better to think about stories because people enjoy reading and listening to stories more. So, what makes a good story? How to attract interest? Stories are written in order to engage with an audience and different audiences engage with different things – if people are deeply interested in link building, then stories should read about link building. If you want to reach bigger, broader business publications, it’s important to find out what types of topics resonate with that particular kind of publication to create interest and connect effectively.
3. In a philosophical sense, what is it about stories that we like so much? How do we create a story that someone would like to read? And why would someone want to read it?
Since humans have been sitting around campfires, we’ve been telling stories, and stories pique interest. Recently, at a conference, I was listening to a presentation from a CMO of a company selling fireproof jackets to firemen. Not a very interesting or sexy product, but when used together with stories of hero’s, firemen walking away from burning buildings holding a person in their arms, the product became associated with saving lives. The human angle can spark emotions, and be exciting. When thinking about a product or service, it’s necessary to think therefore how it might affect someone’s life, who is the end-user, and what does it mean to them.
An organization such as DomaіnCrawler, associated with brand protection services. What can be the story? Maybe there is a child who wants to buy running shoes and planning to spend money for quality, original products, and doesn’t want to lose that money on some scam website. A story might therefore be about a young consumer buying something on the internet and actually getting the product they want, not being ripped off. It’s possible to say not only ‘we provide security” but ‘we make sure that child at home gets that product safely’. This is a very compelling way of communicating.
4. What kind of stories perform best in terms of generating links? Is there a secret to a story?
The secret is to resonate with the reader, and obviously different stories resonate with different readers. A story of a child being at home and receiving shoes that they ordered will be something that works for a brand manager who is interested in ensuring brand integrity. The brand not diluted, people can maintain trust, etc. For them, a story about ‘How to maintain value with your brand” or “How to stop fake websites from setting up” would be appealing.
For a CEO, a story might be about maintaining the value of the brand but from a revenue or shareholder perspective. It would be a different story again from a consumer perspective. It’s the same product, the same service, just being used differently. So, it’s really about how to tell the story in a way that the audience, whether a CEO, brand manager, or consumer, will be excited, interested, and passionate about. In creating stories, you need to think about the product or service and which elements are of value that are interesting to them and what can they learn from it.
5. If correctly understood, there is no difference between B2B and B2C marketing here because in the end you are selling to people. So, really, you need to know what affects those particular people?
Yes, so even in bigger publications, one of the big mistakes writers make is that they create a story for a publication. But the publication has different writers who are interested in different topics and care about different things. Plus, they may have different audiences, a broad range of audiences. So, it is really about tailoring the story to the niche audience they have.
6. What are the specifics of creating a good story in this digital age? Now we have different means – movies, cartoons, etc. Seems like people are reading less? Is text still relevant?
If you are a journalist, you will probably still want to have written text that you can quote and read, but online this can be supported by many types of content such as infographics or data. There are lots of angles, graphs, charts that can be added with text – to make stories more appealing. Nowadays, it’s critical best practice to use Video support, which is more engaging than text or images. Use as much video as possible, and supplement with images and text. YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat – just about anything you can grab and use for a storytelling process could help, and don’t rule anything out.
Recently a CEO of a software company, selling services to software engineers, reported that his biggest response was from TikTok and Snapchat, not more intellectual apps such as Quora or Medium. This was simply because the audience was already there and the right content created. It’s only about grabbing the user’s attention with the right content.
What else you can do? Well, bring your own perspective. Go beyond the facts and share your opinions. Be the protagonist of your own story, and make it relatable. Have a narrative arc and create suspense in your story from one page to another. Bring the user along in the journey by providing context and narrative and deliver a payoff for sticking with you to the end of the story.
7. What are the technical aspects of generating links with great stories? Do you research much? What kind of data do you need?
It’s great to have data that can be referenced to a story whenever you can provide it. People love data to point back to, to link back to. A story that has feelings of passion connects with people, but solid facts give another reason for people to link back to a website.
Use images to compliment a story, which link back to the blog post. Having data as another point of reference for creating a link can be very useful as far as tactical link-building. If you create a story using video or text, put in on a blog post somewhere, have different elements that people can link back to, and give them reason to link back. From a tactical perspective, that will be a huge advantage. Such data should also be structured, as much as possible. Within the world of SEO, structured data is the markup that helps search engines understand how to interpret and display the content. And this helps to optimize your blog or story.
Other technical tips include:
Use descriptive titles, which are short and punchy, less than 100 characters.
Avoid using images that contain burned in text, as this could obstruct the title of your story. Reduce your character count on each page, keep it to less than 300 per page, and avoid including multiple pages with walls of text.
To hear more from Murray on the topic, as well as from other prominent SEO experts, join SEO Recap 2021: Summarizing the year for the industry on December 15 at 16:00 CET.